The World’s Most Extreme Motorcycle Races
We take a look at some of the most dangerous and infamous races on two wheels.
Never mind your Silverstones and your Hockenheims. Those are good for a nice thrash around on a motorbike, but if you’re a two-wheeled racer and you want a proper challenge, you need to think big. Big and dangerous. Here’s a quick highlight of some of the world’s most terrifying motorbike challenges.
Isle of Man TT Probably the most famous bike race meeting in the world, the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy has been taking place on the small island between Ireland and England since 1907 and is statistically the most dangerous race on the planet. It takes place on the Snaefell Mountain Course, a road route that snakes around the island over almost 38 miles, through towns and villages and across open countryside. During races, riders can lap at an average of more than 130mph.
Some 240 riders have been killed on the course over the TT’s history, and a substantial number of spectators and officials have also lost their lives. In spite of this – or perhaps even because of the risk – it remains hugely popular with both racers and fans.
North West 200 Cut from the same mould as the Isle of Man race, the North West 200 is an annual road race in Northern Ireland, taking place on public streets between the towns of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush. The layout is known as the Triangle, and is notable for the very high speeds that competitors can reach – way in excess of 200mph.
The North West 200 has run since 1929 and despite the high speeds and nature of the course, fatalities have been relatively low – just 15 in the event’s history, although three riders were killed in a single day during the races in 1979. Concessions to safety are few – some street signs are removed, and bales of hay are wrapped around lampposts and telegraph poles.
Dakar The Dakar Rally is an off-road race that takes place each year, and is currently held in South America. The name derives from its roots – in 1979, when the first event was held, it was a race from Paris, France to Dakar in Senegal. As if the original route wasn’t dangerous enough due to distance and having to ride through the African desert, in 2008 the race was cancelled due to the threat of terrorism, and moved to Argentina and Chile from 2009.
Baja 1000 Taking place in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula each year, the Baja 1000 is an off-road race that’s been run since 1967. With dozens of classes for different vehicle types, motorbikes are joined by purpose-built buggies, trucks and other racing machines for a race that varies between 600 and more than 1000 miles depending on the course layout.
The terrain is mostly desert, but it’s made more dangerous by spectators booby-trapping sections in the hope of seeing something spectacular happen. Just last month, noted motocross rider Kurt Coselli died on this year’s event after apparently hitting an animal on course.
Pike’s Peak The Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb up a mountain in Colorado gets most of its headlines from the cars that enter, but it’s open to motorbikes as well. The aim is simple – climb up the 12.42-mile track as fast as you can. There are 156 turns rising 1440m, and several classes for different types of bike.
The current record lies with Carlin Dunne on his Ducati Multistrada 1200, who completed the course in just over 9min 52sec at an average speed of 121.4kph. That’s impressive in itself, but when you consider that sections of the course have no crash barriers, and a mistake will see you plunge off the side of a mountain, it’s even more awe-inspiring. Somehow, only two people have died since the race began in 1916.